Homelessness: DVD Highlights Partnerships
in Seattle & Philadelphia
By Virginia Hartman
What works when it comes to addressing the issues of people who have mental illness and are homeless? A DVD package available from SAMHSA documents the success of two integrated programs in Philadelphia and Seattle.
SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) commissioned the project, which puts forth the idea that homeless individuals need housing and then other services to address their needs.
An image of Seattle’s famous Space Needle and glittering skyline is juxtaposed with an image of individuals sleeping in the local park, people so familiar to passersby that they are almost invisible.
“Our challenge is to take that person off the street and put them in permanent, supportive housing,” said Bill Hobson, the Executive Director of Seattle’s Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC). “We operate on the assumption that clinical and social stabilization is going to occur faster when you eliminate the chaos of homelessness from a person’s life.”
DESC has partnered with housing managers, social workers, hospital staff, the police department, and the criminal justice system to see that all the parties who deal with individuals who are homeless are working together. Mental health courts are a part of the mix (see Treatment as an Alternative to Jail).
Project H.O.M.E. (Housing, Opportunities for Employment, Medical Care, and Education) takes a slightly different approach.
Sister Mary Scullion, who spearheaded the formation of Project H.O.M.E., went to the mayor’s office 15 years ago to give voice to the needs of people living on the streets of Philadelphia. Her activism sparked the creation of a mayoral task force that continues to bring together members of the city council, social service providers, representatives of the city’s Department of Behavioral Health, business people, and private donors.
Both DESC in Seattle and Project H.O.M.E. in Philadelphia recognize that no single entity can meet all the needs of people who are homeless. Those agencies and groups that provide entitlements, medical care, housing, and substance abuse and mental health treatment all need to sit down at the same table and talk to one another.
Politicians and civic leaders as well as traditional service providers help the partnership ensure adequate funding, foster community acceptance, and increase service efficiencies.
The DVD package includes pamphlets that describe the strategic partnering principles these organizations used as well as a publication entitled Issue Brief: Strategic Partnering for Systems Change.
“We are not creating a service system to permanently serve people who are homeless,” said A. Kathryn Power, M.Ed., Director of CMHS. “We are building a system of care and recovery to help these men, women, and children recover and live rich, rewarding lives in the community.”
To order Transformation Through Partnerships: Systems Change to End Chronic Homelessness, visit the National Mental Health Information Center or call SAMHSA’s Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7.
For more information about SAMHSA’s efforts to help people who are homeless, visit the Agency’s Homelessness Resource Center.
Homelessness Services: Web 2.0 Connects Providers Online
Social Security Benefits: Outreach, Access, and Recovery for People who are Homeless